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So, endlich. Nach wochenlangem Abtauchen in Robert Fripps Schatztruhe „Exposures“ ist nun die Story fertig. Keineswegs zuende erzählt, aber lesefertig. In unserer Kolumne „Time Travel“.  Bis Ende August. Keine Besprechung im herkömmlichen Sinn. Eher das, was ich vor Jahren  zu Brian Enos Album „The Ship“ veranstaltete, mit  „Braveheart“ Ian. Wir nannten es damals „A review and a story“. Nur dass wir die Rahmengeschichte in eine ferne Zukunft verlegten. Hier geht es definitiv ans Ende der Siebziger,  an den Anfang der Achtziger Jahre. Safe Journey! (Uschi weiss, dass alle hier vorkommenden Personen real sind, zumindest die, die in Würzburg damals studierten. Und all dies wäre wohl nie so erzählt worden, hätte mein alter Weggefährte Uwe Z. nicht vor Wochen die erste King Crimson-Cd in den Player eingeschoben, auf dem Weg zum Blaubergsee, tief im nördlichen Bayerischen Wald.)

„Mai 1980. Wir waren im Hinterland angekommen,  und vom Hinterland fühlte ich mich von früh an angezogen. Gerne hohe Wellen, gerne wildes Grau, gerne grüne Wiesen, Auen, Almen. Der Name der Sehnsucht hatte vorzugsweise einem weiblichen Vornamen. Die  Brünette, die ich an einem Bach, nah des Dorfes, um einen Kuss bat, frech wie ich war, und die retournierte: „Macht ihr Landeier das so?“ „Ich bin kein Landei. Ich bin der letzte Romantiker  des Internationalen Studentenhauses zu Würzburg.“ „Guter Versuch, Schätzchen.“ Netter Korb. Hippie baggert Punk an – „es wird böse enden“. Ed und ich gingen nach zwei Gläsern Bier in einem „zünftigen“ Wirtshaus in die Scheune, und es gab dort eines dieser Konzerte, das ich nie vergessen würde: „Robert Fripp & The League of Gentlemen.“

One of the magic tricks of Jon Balke‘s „Hafla“ is the handling of time. I mean, come on, poems, thousand years old, and translated in modern day English, they sound like simple gestures from everyday life, open for a look to the stars, daydreaming included. Simple as that. These songs all have the length of singles, and, like following an unwritten rule, Jon Balke and his collaborators just ignore any kind of ornamentation or excursion. By just sticking to a song‘s essence, they achieve a beautiful paradox: each track is packed with ideas, nevertheless transparent in every second. How can something overflowing and passionate be so up to the point, so crystalline, so calm? Longing and loss in equal measure, and lyrics from eternities ago that could easily be written, in certain moods by, well, Leonard Cohen or Robert Burns.


01) Jon Balke & Siwan: Hafla (-) /  02) Alabaster dePlume: Gold (2) 03) Oded Tzur: Isabela (-) / 04) Father John Misty: Chloé And The Next 20th Century (-) 05) Avishai Cohen Quartet: Naked Truth (1) / 06) Toechter: Zephyr (-) / 07) Group Listening: Clarinet and Piano – Selected Works, Vol. 2 (4) / 08) David Virelles: Nuna (-) / 09) Roger Eno: The Turning Year (3) / 10) Imarhan: Aboogi (7) / 11) Kreidler: Spells and Daubs (6) / 12) John Scofield: Solo (-) / 13) Ches Smith: Interpret It Well  (-) / 14) Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (-) / 15) Joona Toivanen Trio: Both Only (5)

 

 

Aus der Erinnerung fallen mir eine gute Handvoll Alben ein, neben die ich „The Turning Year“ in einem Regal einordnen könnte – wobei sich das Werk selber schlichtem Rubrizieren entzieht. Die besten Ordnungssysteme sind bekanntlich die, welche nach allen Himmelsrichtungen offen sind. In diesem Sinne lege ich nur ein paar Fährten der Abteilung „Hinterlandmusik“ (nicht „Hintergrundmusik“!) aus: Herbert Hencks „Musica Callada“, seine Interpretation von Stücken von Federico Mompou. Glauco Veniers „Miniature Music“ (subtitled „Music for Piano and Percussion – is there a more unknown ECM-album?). Dann Nils Frahms „All Melody“ (diese Produktion entstand, reiner Zufall, auch in Berlin). Steve Tibbetts’ „Northern Song“. Erik Honoré’s „Heliographs“. Misha Alperins „At Home“. „Mixing Colours“ sowieso (the interview with „The Elderly Brothers“, in regards to their DGG-release in „Electronic Sound“, is good-humoured and insightful). Cluster‘s „Sowiesoso“ (aufgenommen 1976 in Forst und gemischt in Connys Studio). Group Listening: Clarinet & Piano – Selected Works, Vol. 2 („imagine a missing link between  „Obscure Records and ECM‘s New Series“).  Will Burns & Hannah Peel: Chalk Hill Blue. Roberto Musci‘s „Tower of Silence“. Sigurd Holes „Roraima“. Hans Ottes „Buch der Klänge“ (wiederum dargeboten von Herbert Henck). Und „The Equatorial Stars“ von Fripp & Eno.

 

Es kommt vor, dass Phänomene, die sich am Rande, fast schemenhaft, bewegen, einen ebenso tiefgreifenden Einfluss auf das innere Erleben ausüben wie das, was im Brennglas  konzentrierter Aufmerksamkeit funkelt. Nicht zuletzt in dieser Hinsicht ist „The Turning Year“ ein kleines, frei schwebendes Meisterstück, das leicht unterschätzt werden kann. Nichts ist so langweilig wie eine Notation, die keine Fragen offenlässt. Die meisten Alben von Roger Eno kenne ich seit seinem ersten Auftauchen auf einem Meilenstein aus den „goldenen Jahren der Ambient Music“ (Apollo) ziemlich gut. Bevor das Wort „neoklassisch“ zur Schublade der Popkultur wurde für introspektive Erkundungen, zwischen klassisch geschultem Ohr und autodidaktischer Aneignung, setzte Rogers Soloalbum „Voices“ (aus Bob und Dan Lanois‘ Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, Ontario) die berüchtigte Messlatte hoch für eine Musik, die nicht nach Aufmerksamkeit giert, und uns Ohrensesselreisende in ein kontemplatives, a l p h a w e l l e n f r e u d i g e s Stimmungsfeld versetzt.

 

„Modern Mood Music“, so betitelte Richard Williams  einst im Melody Maker eine Besprechung der Schallplatten „Places“ von Jan Garbarek, „Mr. Gone“ von Weather Report, und „Music For Films“ von  Brian Eno.) Oft genug gelangen dem  Mann aus Woodbridge (in den Jahren und Arbeiten nach „Voices“) delikate Gleichgewichte zwischen Oberflächenreiz und Tiefenwirksamkeit. Die Konstante: ein dunkles Leuchten, die Bandbreite erstaunlich, zwischen Kammerspiel und Kunstlied, Improvisation und Ambient. Highlights wie „Voices“ (das Album bescherte ihm einen kleinen Geldsegen, weil es dem „Erotik-Thrill“ des Kinofilms „9 1/2 Wochen“ ein paar Atempausen bescherte),  „Between Tides“, „The Flatlands“, „Lost In Transition“, „Swimming“ und – Soundaskese pur – „The Floating World“. Alle Süßholzraspelei meilenweit entfernt. Verdammt ernste Musik mit einem beinahe kindlichen Gespür für das Staunen. Rogers Samtpfotenpiano, die Verwehungen des Streicherensembles Scoring Berlin, Tibor Remans Klarinette („On The Horizon“) – die Besetzungsliste wäre unvollständig ohne einen gewissen Mr. „In-Between“, ohne den unbestimmten Raum (Zonen namens Aura, Nachklang, Stille).

 

Im Gegensatz zu dem über lange Zeiten fast nomadischen Leben seines Bruders Brian liess es  Roger von früh an ruhig angehen, und verliess nur sporadisch die Räume seiner Kindheit in East Anglia. Dieses neue, allerfeinste Opus beginnt mit „A Place We Once Walked“ – wäre der Begriff „Heimatmusik“ bloss nicht so gruselig konnotiert, hier könnte er vor Anker gehen! Manche dieser pastoralen Szenerien (gutes altes Cinemascope) erfordern einen double takeSpuren des Unheimlichen, die sich hinter dem Schimmer, dem „Anheimelnden“, verbergen! Übrigens, wenn man das Klappcover der Schallplatte öffnet, findet sich eine Reihe von kleinen Fotos aus Rogers Archiv, eine dezente Anreicherung all dieser wunderlichen Melancholien einer als Musik getarnten Tranceinduktion erster Güte. 

 

„On listening back to the finished album, I felt that it could be seen as a series of short stories or photographs of indiviudual scenes, each containing their own character. It was only after I‘d finalised the running order, that I realised just how much of a close relationship one piece has to another, and it was this realisation perhaps that led me to the album‘s title. I thought about how our years comprise of moments, days and changing months, of how we live our lives in facets, how we catch fleeting glimpses, how we walk through our lives. How we notice the turning year.“

(Roger Eno)

 

 

 



It happens that things and sounds which move at the edges, almost shadowily, have an equally profound influence on the centre of things as that which sparks in the burning glass of concentrated attention. In this way, „The Turning Year“ is a little masterpiece (to be released on April, 22, on vinyl, cd and dl).  I know most of Roger Eno’s albums since his first appearance on a milestone from  the „golden years of Ambient Music“ („Apollo“) quite well. Before the word „neo-classical“ became the „simplifier“ for introspective explorations between classically trained / self-taught composing  and contemporary sound-shifting, his first solo album „Voices“ (when will this gem be carefully reissued, along with Michael Brook’s „Hybrid“ – two treasures from Bob and Dan Lanois’ Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, Ontario) set the bar high for a music, that didn‘t grab for attention, but provided us armchair travellers with a peace of mind and a contemplative mood that (most of the time, in the years and works to come) found a delicate balance between harmonic figurations, melodic gestures and surprising „second sounds“ resp. „atmospheric values“ wrapped around them.

And when that happens, the trap of cheap saccharine trickery is a thousand miles away. This is damned serious music with a child-like sense of wonder.

And once inside this new music, with Roger’s hushed piano figures (how can softness be so thrilling?), the contributions of the string ensemble „Scoring Berlin“ – and Tibor Reman‘s clarinet on the title called „On The Horizon“, many listeners will be hungry not to miss a second, hungry for tiny details, distant echoes, the full experience of an always fragile now.

In contrast to the very different (kind of „nomadic“) life of brother Brian, Roger Eno decided from early on to not leave too often the landscapes of his „heimat“ in Suffolk / Norfolk – the geographics of East Anglia. And when the album starts with „A Place We Once Walked“, we can assume he’s trying to restore forgotten feelings and sights and things with the quiet power of sound. Think for yourself what’s going on when discovering (out of nowhere) a nearly forgotten walking path from the ole’ days, the kind of shiver running down the spine, the rush of pale memories. Roger Eno is masterfully catching such fleeting glimpses. And some of  these pastoral sceneries require a „double take“: traces of the uncanny, hidden behind many a shimmering surface. By the way, open the gatefold cover and you‘ll find an assembly of small photos enhancing all these sepia-tinged „East Anglia“-hinterland vibes.

I love to listen to this album on vinyl, and I‘ve done so for a while now (thanks to Martin G from DGG), but, to be honest, I‘ve had one little problem with the longplayer. More than once I looked at the circling vinyl trying to figure out, if there‘s still some running time left. I just wanted the music to stay just a little bit longer. In times like these, this music is medicine.

 

 


Tous les panneaux de sortie sont allumés. I listened to „Simian Angel“ for the first time at the end of summer, sometime ago, on headphones, at night. A long cable, a chaiselongue in the garden. Heaven seems to be the most lonesome place, at least from the point of view of gardening and Japanese tea ceremonies. Nearly knowbody knows this album.

Strange enough, we can still feel in harmony when looking at the sky at night, that time being seduced by Oren Ambarchi‘s album – two long compositions that defy definitions, limits, opening a constant feel of joy and wonder, kling and klang. A touch of kosmische music here and there.

His guitar sounds like a synth, and an organ, most of the time, and when he plays what sounds like a piano (and is again, made with his guitar – a special treatment really), you might feel, for a moment, a „Music For Airports“-vibe – just another illusion, up, up, and away, with the blink of an eye.

Oren’s partner is Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, and when he starts on berimbau at the beginning of vinyl‘s second side, you are in wonderland. Yes, I thought, for another sequence of seconds, of Nana Vasconcelos‘s famous (or not so famous) solo album „Nana Vasconcelos“, the one with violins and violas coming completely out of nowhere, and knowing about Oren‘s passion for a lot of ECM records, I’m quite sure he might have had a similar memory, for a moment.

The music is crossing area after area, you are not able to, surely not keen on marking a spot. All exit signs on! The earth never solid, the percussion drifting in the windmills of your mind. Not all riddles solved, what do you think. I listened to it again tonite. Another word for melting kindly required, all these thin places.

 

 
 

Trio Tapestry‘s sense of melody, space and  letting-go  is immaculate. I will always remember their first record, one of the jazz miracles of 2019. For me, it was the best album Joe Lovano ever made, with Manfred Eicher’s perfect sequencing of the tracks. Listen to the vinyl: suspense, sound and silence in perfect union. It is quite natural that this follow-up lives up to the high standard of the first meeting in New York. Now with a deeper touch of Provence pastel and colours at dusk. You can think of every jazz writing cliche of praise, from „filigree“ to „elemental“, and be sure that Lovano, Crispell and Castaldi are breathing new life into it. After the first three pieces of pure baladry (written by soul, not by the book), the appearances of sound take more and more adventurous side steps, from moments of pianistic unrest and upheaval, to an exploration of metal and sound in Castaldi‘s drum figures. A zen-like purity‘s bold pairing with an adventurous spirit. The record delivers everything with grace, selflessness and the most nuanced sense of  tempo, time standing still and a flow of undercurrents. If this sounds slightly over the top, let the music take over, dim the lights and follow the tapestries!

 

2020 28 Aug

Ein nie wahrgenommener Satz

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Als ich den Text fertigstellte zur Wiederveröffentlichung von „Wrong Way Up“ (s. „From the archives“), las ich auch quer über andere Texte zum Album, und staunte nicht schlecht, als ich über eine Songzeile stolperte, die ich nie bewusst wahrgenommen hatte, obwohl ich das Album unzählige Male gehört habe und dachte, mittlerweile in jeden seiner Winkel gekrochen zu sein. „If It all fades away, let it all fade dancing away.“ Das ist so eine Zeile, die sich mir unter normalen Umständen so tief eingeprägt hätte, wie der eine oder andere Vers von Cohen oder Lennon/McCartney. Aber ist es nicht genau das, was wir an Alben lieben, die uns durchs Leben begleiten: sie überraschen uns nach wie vor, und ihre Tiefenwirkung lässt einfach nicht nach.

2020 10 Jun

The thing with all this misery

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In every life some rain must fall, they say, and sometimes the rain pouring out of the skies is nothing else than a decent, sometimes depressing break-up. Everybody has a story to tell, and some musicians chose to do it in their own peculiar ways, and we call it „break-up album“. Frank Sinatra has done it, Marvin  Gaye has done it, Richard and Linda Thompson did it and burned all candles down in real studio time. It’s still a never-ending discussion if ABBA or Joy Division have recorded the saddest farewell song of them all. When I heard that English maverick Darren Hayman is the next one in the line of the heartbroken, I was not particularly impressed. For someone who loves to take one „lateral drift“ after the other, from the British countryside trilogy to old Florence, from legendary Apollo astronauts to open and disused British open-air swimming pools, a break-up album doesn‘t seem to be the most original choice. But there you are, down and out, and you don‘t give a shit on having a knack for outsider stuff. Thing is I started listening to it without great expectations and was, honestly, blown way after the first seconds. I listened to Home Time twice in a row, and loved every song. I loved the (black) humour, the sadness, the melodies, the twists, the sounds of the instruments, the sound of the room, the lyrics, the space between the lyrics, the survival techniques, the music hall tradition, the cover painting, the elevation of my mood.  It‘s quite a brilliant affair. And maybe the most jubilant break-up album ever. It‘s not too hard to believe the hardest was behind him when recording began, with a deep relief crawling from the margins to the center of every sad, sad, (not so) sad song.

 
 

Discourses is Jon Balke‘s third solo piano album. With the second one, the wonderfully seductive Warp, sound processing & sound design enter the field – a subtile undermining of the piano‘s purity. The Norwegian composer (b. 1955)  is a member of the „ECM family“ since the early years, with his first appearance on Arild Andersen‘s album Clouds In My Head (1974). Let‘s skip his broad range of works as a leader since the days of Nonsentration (1991) and come to the here and now. When I first heard the new album, I immediately sensed that it was not Jon‘s idea to simply add more colours to the sensual palette of Warp. I felt urgency, anger, ruptures. There is something faithful though, a sense of mystery wrapped around melodic figures. Discourses is a very special record.

 
 
 

 
 

Do you agree when I say, Discourses is the „dark sister“ of Warp? It is a very dense work.

 

I sincerely don´t want to direct how people hear this album, and I am happy to hear totally different and opposite interpretations of the music. But, yes, it is connected to Warp and also to Book of Velocitites (2007) in the sense that it explores the same situation, which is the solo artist and the surroundings (Book of V playing to an empty room, Warp playing to a world that starts to respond). And then I have tried to make Discourses a more focused album than the previous two, in the sense that it explores a smaller field of dynamics and tonal concepts. More focus on micro-details. So a detour into a smaller space, in a way.

 

Of course in these days new albums are often linked with Covid 19. Thus, nearly automatically, when looking at the cover, I imagined some early social distancing exercise. When listening to the album I had the impression of a kind of fight going on between uncompromised self-expression and a threatening counter-force of some kind. Am I wrong?

 

No, you are right, absolutely. I am concerned with society and political developments, and do not make music in a vacuum. And, since this music had language and rhetoric as direct inspiration, the music is a reaction to the deterioration of language in political discourse. In a way the Covid crisis highlights this even more, with the desperate press conferences we see too often by leaders who have made catastrophical choices all the way into this disaster. I took the cover photo on a morning square in Malmo, Sweden, and made a series of the same theme that I the crossfaded with each other into a slow-mo movie, because the light was good and the people moving isolated in their own world.

 

The new album is somehow inspired by language, but words themselves are absent.

 

I am attracted to the music of language in rhetoric, and dayly speech: how we use tonality and flexible, non-metric rhythm to express as precisely as possible what we want to say. We pause, we rush, we punctuate, we climb in pitch. Also how we make a statement, debates it, argue for it, return to it, conclude. The solo speech is a good school for solo piano playing.


Discourses will be released tomorrow. How do all these strange sounds care for additional suspense without interrupting the flow of listening? What has been the role of producer Manfred Eicher in the final mix? How come this „smaller space“ is opening up again and again? You can hear other parts of my interview with Jon Balke during the radio night of „Klanghorizonte“ on June 20, and as part of the „Jazz Facts“ on July 5 (Deutschlandfunk).

 

Every once in a while there comes along an old-fashioned, experimental song album that is overflowing with ideas and melodies, nevertheless focussed and carefully assembled up to the tiniest details, at the same time extremely relaxed (close to an ancient J. J. Cale vibe), with a broad palette of rare sounds and a stunning theatre of voices (mainly from the man himself) – altogether a wonderfully performed manual in getting lost, though always linked to a deeply human agenda of our existence. Rustin Man‘s „Drift Code“ is such a work. Paul Webb has learned some reverberating lessons in the nights and months of Talk Talk‘s „Spirit of Eden“ recording sessions, and following an old tradition from the likes of Scott Walker and Robert Wyatt, he‘s not hesitating to nearly disappear for many years (after his marvelous expedition of „Out of Season“ with Beth Gibbons), risking dust from the history books, just waiting for the music to finally fall into place (exuding an energetically pure and primordial atmosphere, nothing less). Drift Code“ may be the perfect album for those armchair travelers who love to listen to albums from start to end, with a knack for the strangeness of things they only think they know about.


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